By Zachary Fletcher
The Philadelphia Eagles were crowned champions of the 2017 football season after defeating the New England Patriots 41-33. In a game combining for close to 1,200 yards of offense, the Eagles and Patriots each showed their prowess as top contenders of the National Football League; but only one can be top dog.
The Patriots as a team combined for over 600 yards, with Tom Brady throwing for 505 yards and three touchdowns. The team added over 100 yards and a touchdown on the ground, according to NFL.com. In an incredible offensive showing, the Patriots did not punt throughout the entire game and Tom Brady continually showed why he is one of the best quarterbacks in the league. He also showed, in one of the uglier plays in New England’s showing, that he’s no wide receiver.
The Eagles put up over 500 yards in the air and on the ground. Three running backs and receiver Nelson Agholor combined for over 160 yards on the ground, with undrafted rookie Corey Clement standing out in the game with over 100 yards and a touchdown, according to nfl.com. Tight-end Zach Ertz and receiver Alshon Jeffrey all had dominant showings throughout the game.
One cannot talk of the Eagles offense, however, without mention of Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles’ performance. Foles put up than 370 yards and three touchdowns, boosting the Eagles to victory and easily garnering MVP honors for the game. With an interception that was bobbled into the hands of the defense by Jeffrey and only one punt in the entire game, Nick Foles showed the nation what he really was made of. He also showed that, in a fourth-down trick play termed the “Philly Special,” he had no problem hauling in touchdown passes.
This game seemed to counter a lot of narratives dominating the football and wider sports world mindset going into the game.
“My pick for MVP was Tom Brady,” Coach Thomas said when asked about MVP predictions.
“He would’ve gotten it without that late fumble,” he added.
“I got the score and the winning team wrong, so I was pretty off,” senior Zach Blair (Huntington Beach, California) said when asked for a score prediction.
The Eagles were underdogs ever since the week 14 injury to franchise quarterback Carson Wentz. The team had led the NFC East the entire year, and probably would have gone into the postseason as heavy favorites had Wentz stayed healthy. Major sports analysts from around the sports world picked the Falcons in the divisional round, the Vikings in the conference championship round and the Patriots in the Superbowl.
The Eagles didn’t listen.
In a Jan. 22 USA Today article offensive-tackle Lane Johnson was quoted as saying “We are the underdogs now, man. There is no stopping it now.”
And there was no stopping it, all the way up until that last Tom Brady hail-mary pass hit the tuft and the Eagles were crowned Super Bowl champions for the first time ever.
Discussion about how it was done will go on for months after the game, but the Puget Sound community had some initials thoughts on how the upset really went down.
“Timely big plays. Both teams had their success throughout the game, but the Eagles had a huge strip sack late, and fourth and one conversion on the game winning drive. They made the few extra plays that the Patriots didn’t, and they came at important times in the game,” Blair said. Those few extra plays came to be crucial in tipping the game in the Eagles’ favor.
Brandon Graham, the longest-tenured Eagle on the defensive side of the ball had that huge strip sack late, and it ultimately ended up deciding the game.
“Beautiful pass rush by the D-lineman. Kept his feet moving, kept working his hands to keep the OL’s hands off of him, and had his hips pointed at the QB the whole time, then finished by getting the ball out. Textbook,” Blair said about that deciding strip sack by Graham.
“[The Eagles] were so calm and confident in their approach,” Coach Thomas said.
As for the future of the players as this season ends, Tom Brady appears to be digging back in to work and Nick Foles appears a little more uncertain.
“Tom Brady is probably working right now for next year. They will be good next year as always,” Coach Thomas said.
“Brady plays another season depending on how his body held up, and Nick Foles is an interesting position. Just won the Super Bowl MVP, and is looking at being a back-up if he stays with his current organization. I see him being shipped off somewhere else,” Blair said.
While the future is uncertain, the present is very clear: the Philadelphia Eagles are Super Bowl champions. With the losses of quarterback Carson Wentz and potential hall-of-famers Jason Peters and Darren Sproles, the season looked bleak at times. A loss in Kansas City early on proved a tough initial test on the Philly squad. The loss of Carson Wentz could have been cause for outrage or distress in the city of brotherly love.
But it only made that brotherly love stronger.
The unique situation of the number-one seed not being the favorite throughout the entirety of the playoffs field a fired in Philadelphia. Every game was treated like it was the most important, each a different step on the road to Super Bowl immortality.
The Eagles brought this victory home for the fans and city of Philadelphia. The city has seen the likes of Donovan McNabb and other greats bring them so close to greatness, only to be stopped just short of the prize. Lifelong Eagles fans saw their team play deep into the postseason and win the Super Bowl for the first time in years, longer than many have even been alive.
To see lifetime players like tight end Brent Celek and younger players like Wentz both get to experience the joy of being the best football team in the world, that’s what brings this city joy. To see the joy on second-year as head coach Doug Pederson’s face after being called unqualified at the start of the season, that’s what brings this city joy. After seeing Carson Wentz embrace and support Nick Foles whole-heartedly after going down, that’s what brings this city joy.
Safety and team captain Malcolm Jenkins led a chant this year that rung true throughout the season and speaks to the nature of adversity the team went through. It speaks to the commitment that the players brought every week to the field. And it speaks to how, in the face of everyone telling the Eagles they couldn’t win, they went out there and brought a title to Philly:
“We all we got. We all we need.”